The horror! Ridley Scott reveals Robert Altman was first choice to direct Alien

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Mar 26, 2021, 4:00 PM EDT (Updated)

Ridley Scott is credited with making arguably the best horror science fiction movie of all time with 1979’s Alien. Though it is now hard to imagine that cinematic classic in the hands of anyone else, Scott has revealed that he wasn’t the first choice to take the director’s chair. He wasn’t even a close second!

Talking to The Hollywood Reporter as part of their roundtable series, Scott revealed that he was actually the fifth choice, and that the project had initially been handed to the late Robert Altman.

"There are two good scripts that have landed in my lap over the years, actually three,” Scott says. “Alien was very good and I was fifth choice, they gave it to Robert Altman. The other one was American Gangster." (Scott mentions the third as being his latest flick, All the Money in the World.)

When he mentions the M*A*S*H director’s name, there are audible gasps from those around the table, including actor Seth Rogen, who cut in to say, “That would have been weird …”

Weird indeed! Which, of course, has got us wondering exactly what the “Altmanesque” vision of the Nostromo crew would look like. The maverick filmmaker is known for his love of an ensemble cast, and we’re thinking he probably would have added a few more crew members, including butlers and kitchen staff; think Gosford Park (2001), but on a spaceship.

And let’s be clear: If Altman had taken the reins, we’d argue that there would have almost certainly been a different Ripley. In fact, Meryl Streep – who famously worked with Altman on A Prairie Home Companion (2006) – was actually considered for the role at the same time as the incredible Sigourney Weaver, who eventually landed it.

With Altman’s innovative directing approach, we’d imagine that it would have possibly been a less traditional horror take, especially if Streep had stepped on board. His penchant for overlapping dialogue, we fear, may have given us a much wordier film, too, perhaps closer to the style of Altman’s psychological horror/thriller Images (1972). We’re seeing less suspense and gore and more arguing and debating among the actors. All in all, as much as we love and respect the late, great director, we’re very pleased Mr. Scott got the job.

Though sadly, Scott himself says that the shelf life of the alien creature could now be past due. "I think the beast has almost run out, personally,” he says.

What do you think would have happened to the Alien franchise in the hands of another director? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.